Rhubarb Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Rhubarb Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

If there is a vegetable/fruit harbinger of spring in the Pacific Northwest, it is definitely rhubarb. Graceful, firm stalks of crimson red begin to appear in Northwest farmers markets in February, long before spring actually arrives.

Rhubarb Apple Crisp Mise-en-Place

The first flush of rhubarb in the market is hothouse grown and typically paler in color and lower in acid tang than the field rhubarb that follows a few weeks later. But regardless of whether it’s hothouse or field rhubarb, there is no sight I long for more each spring than overflowing baskets of fresh rhubarb.

Diced Rhubarb for Rhubarb Apple Crisp

By late February, I have grown a little tired of apples and pears, those sturdy comestibles of winter. And dried fruit too, although delicious, is losing its appeal. I want the zing of fresh fruit and nothing is zingier than rhubarb.

Rhubarb and Apples for Rhubarb Apple Crisp

This year, I am experimenting with new flavor partners for rhubarb and have happened upon the almost magical juxtaposition of rhubarb and cardamom. This rhubarb apple crisp combination is aromatic, exotic, and familiar all at the same time. In other words, it’s divine!

Rhubarb Apple Crisp in Ramekins

If you are new to cooking with rhubarb, check out Fresh Primer: Rhubarb to get started.

Now on to this most delectable dessert…

Rhubarb Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

Spring Rhubarb Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

This crisp combines the last of the Northwest apples (from winter cold storage) and the first of the spring field rhubarb crop. It’s a perfect marriage, because the apples lend body to the crisp (rhubarb disintegrates when cooked) and the rhubarb boosts the flavor of the apples by several notches.

Rhubarb has a natural affinity for caramel, thus I am using all brown sugar for the sweetener here. Lime, cardamom, cloves, hazelnuts, and vanilla ice cream are additional flavors that work like magic with rhubarb, and they are all here in this wonderful dessert.

Streusel Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup butter, very cold, cut into ½-inch pieces

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and roughly chopped or ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon water, cold

Fruit Filling

1¾ pounds Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, sliced (about 1 pound or 4 cups prepared)

1¾ pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced (1¼ pounds or 2 cups prepared)

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon finely minced lime zest (from 1-2 limes)

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt


best quality vanilla ice cream (preferably homemade or Haagen Dazs)

  1. To prepare Streusel Topping, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, sugar, and salt.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until mixture is evenly crumbly.
  3. Add the hazelnuts or walnuts and combine well.
  4. Combine the vinegar and water and sprinkle over the topping. Mix lightly with a fork, using a lifting motion rather than a stirring motion. The idea is to gently distribute the moisture throughout the topping.
  5. To prepare Fruit Filling,
    in a mixing bowl, gently combine the apples, rhubarb, brown sugar, vanilla, lime zest, cornstarch, and salt.
  6. To assemble and bake, butter six, individual, 1½ cup gratin or soufflé dishes.
  7. Divide the fruit filling between the six dishes.
  8. Top each dish with an equal portion of the streusel topping, and then top with an equal portion of the almonds.
  9. Arrange the gratin dishes on an edged baking sheet and lay a piece of foil loosely on top.
  10. Bake at 350º for ½ hour, remove the foil, and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. If necessary, broil for a minute or so or use a kitchen torch to brown the tops.
  11. Remove from the oven, let cool somewhat, and then serve while still warm, preferably with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6.

More Rhubarb Recipes from LunaCafe:

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.


  1. Mary-beth says:

    I was thinking about a Rhubarb Crisp for a special dinner party coming soon – this one makes the grade! Thanks! :-)

  2. we have this in the oven right now :)
    we got some rhubarb at the greensboro farmers market for this recipe. smells divine, and will be a wonderful conclusion to this humid + rainy holiday weekend!

  3. I have been seeing ‘crisp’ recipes around a lot recently and i never knew what they were until now. See I was confused because we call this a crumble in Australia (and boy do we love our crumbles). Looks so tasty, I love that you don’t have to pre-cook the fruit.

    lili – pikelet & pie´s last blog post..Sauteed Beetroot Leaves with Anchovy and Garlic Breadcrumbs

    • Oh yes, a crumble. We call them that here too, sometimes. :-)

      I love them because they taste fabulous and are easier to make than a pie. I keep a couple of different streusel toppings in the freezer at all times so it takes less than 15 minutes to get this dessert into the oven.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Hey folks, @pikeletandpie is also on Twitter.

  4. One word. YUM!

  5. You just have the loveliest photos! (and the recipes sounds delicious too, of course)

    Feast on the Cheap´s last blog post..Meals, Steals and Discounts

  6. Aloha! back from another gastronomic adventure in Maui. Looks like you have been having your own one here with hazelnuts, rhubarb and cardamon. Divine! I add some cardamon to almost all my baked goods these days. Can’t get enough! This one is a keeper.

    Dana Zia´s last blog post..Vote with Your Taste Buds

    • Dana! Oh you lucky dog for getting to make ANOTHER trip to Maui this year. You know I’m green with envy.

      I took my Mom on the last trip and thus missed out on snorkeling, which is my favorite activity, besides eating, on the island. I will make up for that this winter hopefully.
      Yes, I’ve gone over the deep edge on the rhubarb evangelism, mostly on Twitter. Save the rhubarb! :-) Maybe I should be called Soozi Rhubarbseed. heh heh…

      So glad you’re back!

  7. Wow your site design is so fresh and colorful! I’m loving all these mouth watering photos & the crisp in this post sounds divine.

    Ari (Baking and Books)´s last blog post..Irresistible Traveler’s Chocolate Muffins

  8. Just popped in via the Food Blog is 7 post where you left a comment. Sure glad I did. Rhubarb is just about ready in PA and your recipe sounds so good, I may have to make some home made ice cream to do it justice! Thanks for sharing…

    I’m going to take a look around now, so much to drool over:)

    Louise´s last blog post..A Day of Marshmallow Fluff!

  9. Oh, such beautiful photography!

    Great recipe. I’m so pleased that you left out the cinnamon. Apples + cinnamon = boring. But cardamom…now that’s worth trying.

    Eagranie´s last blog post..If this is bad, I don’t want to be good.

  10. I love rhubarb and can sit out in the garden and gnaw on the stalks all day long. Great combination of tartness and amazing flavor. Plus you hit the nail on the head that zing is a good sign it is finally springtime.

    Entire dish sounds and looks amazing!

    Jeff´s last blog post..Pineapple marinated chicken with a shocking twist


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